As Lent starts tomorrow, my mind is pulled in different directions. I have mentioned in previous posts that I was raised in the Catholic church. My father is the model Catholic. He quietly lives his life serving others, never boasting about his good deeds. I know, though. Ive seen it, and I've heard from others about his selfless deeds. His faith is unwavering.
On the other hand, I am not a model Catholic. I don't go to church. I've had good conversations with others about their beliefs, and have come to the conclusion that we all want the same thing. We are probably all worshiping the same God without knowing it. I also believe that the way that we worship, our different rituals and customs allow us to gratify the ugly power struggles I see every day; be it on television, FB, talk radio, or personal relationships. Our way sometimes gets in our way.
Even though I am not a practicing Catholic, I do sometimes miss the rituals and customs. How many people have had conversations about what they are "giving up" for Lent who aren't even Catholic? The Lentin season helps one to set a goal and accomplish it within a designated time. It's good thing. It brings people together, promoting community and dialogue.
Even some good Catholics can lose the true meaning of Lent. Like fish on Fridays, or setting personal gain goals. Perhaps those goals are penance to show God we are sorry for our sins, but losing ten pounds sounds more selfish rather than selfless. I had a really good conversation with Father Tim many years ago, before he passed. I could ask him anything. He was so patient with me. When I asked him why we eat fish on Fridays, he gave me a short and easy-to-understand answer. It isn't really about eating fish on Friday. It's about abstaining from warm-blooded meat.
Way back when, the fish was used as a symbol to other christians that they too were christians. The fish was symbolic of being "fishers of men". It was dangerous to be so at the time, so it was like their secret code. Therefore, fish was acceptable to eat on Fridays, during Lent, as a penance.
Rather than punish myself during Lent (remember I'm not really a good Catholic anyway), I choose to sieze the opportunity in a few different ways. My plan is to meditate, or pray. I am going to sit in silence and quiet my brain. Daily. I plan to be more aware of what I am doing and the way in which I do it. That in itself is a tall order. I want to be more mindful. Yes, I will gain something from this. I will also pay homage to God by doing this.
Eating fish on Fridays isn't personally meaningful to me. Father Tim said that it was really meant to be penance. Indulging in a lobster dinner, or a delicious salmon isn't my idea of penance, but of celebration. I'm not saying I believe that this is wrong. I respect the people who eat fish on Fridays during Lent. I just don't understand it. They are decicated. They are following their given ritual. It has meaning. Maybe it's a way to celebrate Lent, but that's where I get messed up. Are we celebrating? Doing penance? Both in synchronicity?
My penance is to improve myself, not to punish myself. I believe that God knows my heart. I believe that I punish myself enough, and that God would approve of my way to celebrate Lent and do penance. I feel like I have set myself up for failure too many times by "giving up chocolate", or "quitting smoking". I want to be able to dedicate myself to something I know may be a struggle, but I can do. Mindfully. I know Father Tim would approve, and I believe that my God will too.